The Clippers passed just 5.2 times per 24 seconds of possession last season – 26th in the NBA.*
*The Warriors ranked first in passes per 24 seconds of possession (6.5), and the Trail Blazers ranked last (4.5).
L.A.’s lack of ball movement wasn’t terribly surprising. Kawhi Leonard is an iso scorer. Paul George can attack one-on-one and serve as a complementary shooter but isn’t known for distributing. Starting point guard Patrick Beverley, has grown as a ball-handler and passer, but he still lags behind his peers in creation ability. Backup point guard Lou Williams is a score-first player. Landry Shamet, who spent time at point guard, is far better as 3-point bomber coming off off-ball screens.
Leonard actually improved tremendously as a passer, averaging 4.9 assists per game. That was the final ingredient in him becoming a complete player.
But he apparently doesn’t want that burden again next season.
They clearly need a point guard. Everybody knows it, and Kawhi Leonard privately has clamored for one. It’s not that he wants the to get rid of Patrick Beverley. But Patrick Beverley is basically a defensive ace who’s small and has to play opposing guards. So, they need a point guard that can run a team and can shoot. Patrick Beverley is that defensive energizer bunny that comes off the bench to do it for you.
Beverley might appreciate not getting run out of town in this Leonard-influenced scenario. But I wonder how Beverley would feel about getting demoted to reserve.
Leonard usually gets what he wants (which might be part of the problem). The Clippers have the mid-level exception, though the pickings are slim after Goran Dragic in free agency. Beverley, Williams, Shamet and potentially re-signed or signed-and-traded Marcus Morris and Montrezl Harrell could be used to deal for a point guard.
But even if acquiring a point guard, the Clippers’ style of play is somewhat bound by Leonard’s and George’s presence. This probably won’t suddenly turn into a team zipping the ball all over the floor.
New Clippers coach Tyronn Lue must manage a team that either once again indulges Leonard (and sends an implicit Leonard-first message to the rest of the roster) or fails to appease its star. Both scenarios are tricky.
Far trickier than the on-court issue of not having a quality traditional point guard.